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Sketchup-ur-space Magazine - June 14

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Depicting Architecture - Enter the Riba Journal Eye Line Competition

However you design – on paper or on screen, through collage or any combination of these – depicting your intentions as an architect is often about more than communicating information. It can be an object of beauty and wit. It can be a mere suggestion or ultra-detailed, close to abstraction or photo-realistic. And we want to see the best you can do.

This is why we have launched Eye Line – the RIBA Journal competition for the depiction of architecture. One of our 120th year initiatives, it’s very simple: we want to find the best representations of a building design or concept through visual means. We shall devote a special issue of RIBA Journal to this in our revived August issue – we’re pleased to announce that henceforth RIBAJ will return to 12 issues per year – and publish the winners. Entries should be two-dimensional – we will not accept models or video, nor will we consider photographs of models – but within that constraint we will judge all methods and media equally.

Our judging panel includes Turner-nominated artist and Royal Academician Cornelia Parker; architect, academic and noted penman Alan Dunlop; Narinder Sagoo, youngest partner in Foster & Partners; and RIBAJ editor Hugh Pearman.

Sagoo, (Twitter name ‘Drawing Man’) works closely with Norman Foster and the other partners to illustrate the thought processes and architectural visions of almost all the projects in the office. He says: ‘Drawing for me is the language of storytelling through the pen or pencil, or even the finger on an iPad. Through an efficient drawing, sketch or doodle, it’s this storytelling that allows one to communicate ideas of architectural grandeur or dreams of urban utopianism. Today we use the same language to warn of impending dystopias. The language of drawing rules in today’s global markets and universal visions of design, from headquarter designs in the UK or libraries in the USA to a new metropolis in China.’

Dunlop, sceptical of computer-rendering, with a very recognisable densely-worked ink drawing style of his own, says: ‘Hand drawing has intrinsic value; the effort of artistic endeavour that produces an article that is both unique and personal. Today, few young architects know how to build and even fewer know how to transfer and develop their ideas on the page. This, I submit, is a direct consequence of the immediacy and false authenticity provided by the computer. No computer generated image, however, can match the spirit of a great drawing. I hope this competition proves me wrong.’

Cornelia Parker RA, OBE, has exhibited all over the world: her work is in museums including the Tate. Known for her highly oblique and witty approach, she often adapts found objects – such as her famous ‘Cold Dark Matter’ sculpture of suspended fragments, the result of blowing up a shed, or her steamrollered silver-band instruments. ‘I resurrect things that have been killed off... My work is all about the potential of materials - even when it looks like they’ve lost all possibilities,’ she has said. She also produces remarkable works on paper, including her ‘Poison and antidote drawings’ which combine rattlesnake poison, black ink, antidote serum and white ink. She comes with no preconceptions as to the nature of the ‘drawing’ work that this competition will reveal. She simply remarks: ‘I hope to see a vision of an impossible future’.

Hugh Pearman’s take on the competition is that all modes of depiction are equally valid, since all are tools, and that they can fruitfully be combined: but that however the work is made, it must be about the ideas and the talent of the architect, not governed by the physical or technical capabilities of the tool itself. ‘The moment the medium takes over from the message is the moment that the depiction of architecture loses its way,’ he says. ‘But increasing sophistication of digital media is now returning the directness to depiction: if David Hockney can successfully paint on an iPad, then what’s the problem? It’s all to do with the idea, the hand and the eye.’

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